A few weeks ago I was walking a lot in the evenings between 6pm when Saipua closes up and 8pm when the sun sets. The gloaming and I; down the block, out of Red Hook across the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. To the corner of Clinton and Carroll Street.
This particular week was damp and heavy, shrouded with clouds and cold. New Yorkers were cursing spring, can you believe this weather? and yet the lilac, dogwood, and last apple blossoms continued their parties with their own inside jokes and amusement at our limited understanding of larger weather patterns. As if everything was either/or. Sun or Rain.
On one of these nights, finishing work a bit late, I looked out and saw a diminishing opportunity to visit a particular tree which I had recently claimed to be 'my tree' although it is not mine. My tree is an old magnificent pink dogwood in the small yard of a handsome funeral home in Carroll Gardens. The surrounding yard is unfortunately landscaped with garish orange begonias in the window boxes and several pepto bismal-colored azaelea dotted about. On one walk there later that week I developed a plan to offer our new Saipua landscaping services to this funeral home in order to better suit my tree. (This plan has since been abandoned.)
I ended up claiming 'a tree' after a friend of mine told me about 'his tree' - an old apple arguably too large for its city block, practically foaming at the mouth with flowers. After visiting this friends tree a couple of times I realized that I really should have my own -- considering the nature of my work -- it was practically embarrassing that I didn't have 'a tree' already.
Shortly thereafter I encountered a tree which qualified. I was driving through Carroll Gardens, a neighborhood which, due to specific economic conditions over the course of the last century, is replete with handsome older decorative trees of a certain caliber. It was a pink dogwood in full bloom - its flowers already drawn out and flabby. Alone in the car, I sucked a breath in sharply, tipping my sunglasses down my nose and craning my neck to watch it as I drove by. Regaining focus on the road and I claimed it silently, vowing to visit it regularly.
On one of these visits to my tree on this particular cold week, I encountered a lilac heavy with blue flowers volunteering itself over a wrought iron fence. It was practically throwing itself at me as I walked by. Stepping into it, I thought briefly of the number of noses likely pressed into these flowers, in the specific vicinity of four to five feet off the ground, and the likelihood of sharing a strangers breath, even traces of their saliva inadvertently on the surface of these seemingly innocent florets.
When I inhaled into this lilac I knew I would not ever be able to get enough. I suddenly wanted privacy on the street; no dog walkers... no children on scooters, their mothers with phones pressed between their shoulders and their ears, bullishly hurtling down the sidewalk sideways glancing at me standing there in the bushes.
I pushed onward past the ombre arc of a waining dicentra, past lines of tulips standing at attention. I got to my tree and wondered if maybe I didn't jump the gun in choosing it; might there be a better tree for me?
There's another plant I visit, a wisteria. It canopies over the sidewalk, on a street connecting our studio to the rest of Red Hook. I learn about it from Genevieve shortly before her last day at Saipua. In Genevieve's world many things are magical; though our standards for this word are calculated with different sets of weights and measures. Recalling the wisteria now, since reduced to its plain clothes of average green foliage, I find myself stumbling for words. It was a mysterious moment; one which created some sort of supernatural pull; altering my flight patterns, my daily routines and thoughts. Practically the definition of magic. And I realize I should give Genevieve's magic more credit.
You can eat the petals of wisteria, they taste like peas. I take some to eat one afternoon and it feels like some sort of florist communion. We all want that secretly, don't we? Entrance to the spiritual realm.
We dance around it, intellectually pull it apart in conversations about the nature of organized religion or meditation or hallucinogenics. We gently prod at it, handling the slippery thing carefully. Not knowing how to proceed.